One of my goals in 2015 was to visit 12 museums, and to share details about those visits with you. Museums are great places to hide, to socialize, to think, to listen to audiobooks or music and to wander. They are also places to collect inspiration, to ponder, to absorb, to grow and to learn. Hopefully one of my visits will inspire one of yours.
MUSEUM VISIT 8/12: THE HUNTINGTON MUSEUM OF ART
DATE OF VISIT: 14 JUNE 2015
I was in Huntington, WV for a Saturday wedding and my husband and I decided to stick around on Sunday and tuck in a museum visit. Despite going to school in Huntington (Go herd!) I had never been to the Huntington Museum of Art.
We were first to arrive at the museum that Sunday. What struck me about the museum is how out-of-the way it seemed. Despite being in Huntington many, many times and living there before, I had never been where the museum was located. I enjoyed the drive up (it's on a hill) as we wound along the roads, hugging curve after curve.
The museum is definitely dated, but you can tell some folks are working to make updates, and keep things current. The interior is in need of some updating and repairs. And the collections are displayed tightly in some cases. I enjoy museums that really consider the story they are telling through their exhibits...curation is something I have definitely come to appreciate and something I've come to notice. This museum had a lot of great pieces, there is no question about that, I do think, though, that things could have been curated differently in some areas and the effect would be completely different for the visitor.
There was an Alice in Wonderland exhibit at the time. I enjoyed seeing it, but we walked through relatively quickly. There were a lot of items in this exhibit, but there wasn't much in the way of helping the visitor understand clearly the role Alice in Wonderland played and why it matters. There was one case showing various versions of the book from different cultures which I loved seeing. There was not a lot of context presented. I have learned that one of the roles museums serve is to provide a broader context for an event, a person, an object, a movement, a change—and that broader context comes through smart curation. When items are just displayed together in one room, the context is hard to find. Give your museum visitors context and you give them an experience.
The Huntington Museum of Art has one of the largest collections of Blenko glass and a portion of it was on display (around 1,000 pieces). I thought this was such a neat exhibit, but it really missed the mark. Shelves were crammed full of pieces of glassware and each piece was numbered. If you wanted to know something more about a piece of glass, you had to walk over to a binder and look it up. I did this a few times, and some of the entries were not worth the time it took to find it in the dang binder! I was also disappointed with this particular exhibit because I feel they missed an opportunity to teach people about glass and how it's made. There was no information on how glass is actually made, what tools are used, how you get different colors, how long it takes to make a piece....no information on what makes some colors of glass more valuable than others....no visuals showing you any part of the process. No pictures of the glassblowers who made some of the pieces in the room. A room full of beautiful, finished glassware is what you find in someone's house in a curio cabinet....you stop and look at it and go 'wow, this is pretty.' Museums are supposed to give you context. I should have left that exhibit understanding more about how the glassware was produced and also about the impact the glassmaking profession had in the Huntington, WV area (how did it impact people economically? How many glassblowers were in the area? How many are still there today? What social and cultural impact did the glassblowing community in Huntington have on a national or global scale, if any? Why did it die out?). So, it was gorgeous, but it was not curated. It did not give me context.
My husband and I loved the conservatory. They did a nice job creating a lovely experience, a great job labeling the plants and providing information about many of the plants beyond just the name. I would come back just to visit this conservatory again!
Finally, we stopped in at the gun room. One man had spent a lifetime collecting everything having to do with guns. The room was jam packed with specimens and with text providing all kinds of information about the pieces. I moved through this room pretty quickly, but my husband stayed for a good 20-30 minutes. I sat outside in a light-flooded hallway on a bench in some quiet. He enjoyed this room. Anyone with an interest in firearms would appreciate this exhibit.
The gift shop was crammed with stuff and we usually buy a museum pin or patch, but none were available. If you are disabled, in a wheelchair or otherwise, this gift shop is too crammed with stuff to be able to move through it. It would benefit from a good clean out and reorganization of items.
Overall, I'd come back to see the conservatory in a heartbeat. It's a lovely, lovely spot. I'll also keep an eye out for future exhibitions....at $5 a visit (free on Tuesdays thanks to Macy's) it's totally worth it. The museum is in a great location, nature trails for hiking are right there, they are active on social media and seem to be making strides to make improvements to the facility and the collections. If you are in Huntington, I'd recommend stopping in for a visit for sure.
I do wish I had been able to learn more about the glass, though!
THREE THINGS THAT REALLY STRUCK ME:
1. The Conservatory I thought it was an awesome pairing: art museum + conservatory. Beautiful art with beautiful nature. Sit by the koi pond, admire the Chihuly, and learn about plants.
2. The Glass Collection. The collection is awesome. But, you won't learn much about it. If you want to learn about the glass, I'd call ahead to see if a docent or someone can walk with you to give you details because there aren't any in the exhibit space.
3. Hiking Trails. There are a few hiking trails that start just off the museum parking lot. You could easily make a day of seeing the art museum and conservatory and then going for a hike. It's a great location.
1. The museum is free on Tuesdays thanks to Macy's, and closed on Mondays. Open all other days.
2. Admission is just $5.
3. The museum hosts a bunch of activities and events so check their website. One of these may coincide with your visit!
The Huntington Museum of Art
Address: 2033 McCoy Rd., Huntington, WV 25701
Phone: (304) 529-2701